Traveling a weary week to Poland,
backpacks stuffed with the necessary
and absurd. (Logic is too much to expect
when the world has gone mad.) Homes
destroyed, the roads gone, too, and the
neighbors? Who can say? “I don’t know
where I live anymore,” wept one old man
trudging through debris to nothing he wanted,
or knows, or chose; still, plodding on and away,
through the freezing night, into dark mystery.
Mothers and children, crammed in bright
stations, on benches and floors; looking
back towards yesterday, their holy ground,
and forward to questions without answers,
looking to their phones, staring into nothing,
looking to bear what they cannot bear to see.
Yet holding her child close to her heart, a woman says,
“I’m uncertain what is next, but I know we will return.”
Here were communities, watered and thriving, now
uprooted, connections left to desiccate, unearthed,
drying in the heat of depravity’s flames. Husbands,
fathers, brothers, sons. Men who owned their lives
and wore them comfortably, as students, engineers,
teachers, doctors, farmers, (only just preparing spring’s
planting), have stayed behind to fight for that which
they are, and will not yield, the beautiful and true.
A boy in soldier’s clothes comforts a child,
then bandages a woman’s head. He fumbles,
embarrassed by a camera sharing his clumsiness
5000 miles away, but he takes such gentle care in this
moment and the next. On Valentine’s Day, a month and
a lifetime past, he walked to classes and wondered if
the one he loved might love him, too. Today, an AK-47
hangs from his shoulder and he wears a helmet too large
for his adolescent head. How do the beautiful and true survive?
A tiny grandmother, babushkaed and bold, safe in Krakow,
smiled into the camera, “The bombs were everywhere;
the enemy shooting from behind every tree. But I am here!
I am alive! And that is good! Yes, that is very good!”
Where do these people find such strength,
the courage to leave; to part; to stay? People who
hug, and grieve, and stand to face the enemy,
unarmed except with brave defiance and wit; who
are these people of such fierce fire, too strong
to surrender their hope or joy? Too wise to believe
any despoiler could own their beauty and truth?
“He may destroy our homes;” one said,
“he may steal our land and believe
himself rich, but he would be deluded.
He will never possess our hearts or our
spirits. His evil only makes them stronger.
They will endure; they will remain and rise,
green and wild, beautiful and true;
they will grow and live forever.”
Dedicated, with all my love, to the people of Ukraine.
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